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Tech coverage of the 2005 North American International Auto Show – Safety

January 1, 2005

in All Articles,Cars and auto

It would be nice if we could all drive around in tanks that max out at 70 MPH, but for many reasons that solution isn’t very practical. Instead we have here a few new and improved technologies that make driving safer, from that long distance highway trip to driving to the store during a blizzard.

Traction Control

More and more cars are coming standard with traction control systems. While we all should practice safe driving, these systems will help during those times we forget, or get trapped in a bad situation over which we have no control.

The show wasn’t without some gratuitous display of traction control at work. Ford had a little cockpit you could seatbelt yourself into. This simulator would shake and shimmy and throw you around, demonstrating what it would be like to drive in an emergency with and without the “Advance-Trac with Roll-Stability Control” system.

Strap yourself in.

Get ready to feel like a paint can in a mixer.

The technology uses two gyroscopic sensors. These constantly monitor your car’s roll rate, skid rate and direction of the car. This information tells a computer whether or not your car is close to tipping over or sliding out of control. If this is the case, the system will hit the breaks or will reduce engine torque on individual wheels to correct the problem. This is particularly important for more top-heavy vehicles like SUVs.

While not as important as a seat belt, recent studies (here and here) have shown that traction control systems are a strong factor in preventing crashes.

Adaptive Headlights

BMW has an options called Adaptive Headlights. Turning your steering wheel will turn your headlights. Wonderful for turns and curves, your lights will always point in the direction of travel.

The picture below compares a conventional headlight system with Adaptive Headlights. Note the visibility improvement the lower car gets as it speeds down the same curved road.

Adaptive Steering

BMW has a $1250 option called Active Steering. Depending on your car speed, turning the steering wheel will turn the tires at different rates. If you’re driving fast, turns will be smooth and less drastic. Slow speeds (like city driving or parking) turn the car faster. The end result of this system is better control and more efficient driving.

The picture below was a NAIAS demonstration of this system at work. Pushing a button for highway, city or parking speeds and turning the steering wheel would turn the model tires at different rates.

The text in the picture above reads:

Delivering the perfect blend of stability and agility. BMW’s unique Active Steering enhances your driving experience. It varies the steering ratio based on vehicle speed. At low and medium speeds, the steering is more direct. The car is more agile and nimble, especially on twisty roads.

Blind Spot Information System (BLIS)

Coming Spring of 2005 is Volvo’s Blind Spot Information System, or BLIS. Here, digital cameras are placed in the car’s side mirrors. These cameras take high speed continuous pictures of what’s in your car’s blind spots.

The system is constantly comparing its pictures, and can tell the difference between stationary objects (like trees and parked cars) and moving objects (like other cars and motorcycles on the road with you). If it detects a moving object in your blind spot, it will trigger a visual warning to let you know not to try changing lanes on that side.

The BLIS system will be offered on the Volvo V70 and S60.

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